Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that states can’t outlaw homosexual marriage. It’s a move that really doesn’t surprise anyone and of course will leave liberal activists saying, “It’s about time” and conservative activists decrying the decision as “tyranny from the bench.” Of course, the world has yet to end, it still turns, day turns into night, we all have jobs to go to, and life goes on.
Of course, reading mostly Christian websites, one would be left with the impression that the government has changed the entire definition of marriage and that the end of the world as we know it is upon us. We’re met with overreaction after overreaction, hyperbolic statements, and hypotheticals that will probably occur at some point in the future (decades, if not centuries, down the road), but not tomorrow. If – as Christians believe – marriage is established by God then marriage was never within the State’s domain. Technically, especially from a sacramental view of marriage, all marriage licenses have been an attempt by the government to reinterpret marriage and all have been equally invalid; under a sacramental view of marriage, only marriages within the Church (or later consecrated by the Church) are truly legitimate. What the State defines as marriage is by nature separate from what the Church defines as marriage (unless we’ve been in a theocracy all these years and I didn’t know it).
Think about it: how does this modern ruling impact the “sanctity of marriage?” The sanctity of marriage was gone long before the movement came about for homosexual marriage. When the American divorce rate is still high (especially for late Baby Boomers/Generation X’ers, and showing no signs of abating for late Generation X’ers/early Millenials), how can we say we hold marriage sacred? When the average American family will spend more time apart due to careers and daycare than they will together and such an economic system is rabidly defended by the same people who decry homosexual marriage, exactly what’s so sacred about marriage? Even on a more base level, for those who have done away with the sacraments, how can marriage be sacred? If there is no sacrament to marriage then it’s impossible for marriage to be sacred. In other words, we did away with the sanctity of marriage long ago, long before there was a movement for gay rights.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some reasons to worry. After all, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which a church is sued because they won’t officiate a homosexual wedding or refuse to rent out their property for a homosexual wedding. If a baker is sued for refusal then what arbitrary line do we place between the baker and the church; regardless of one’s personal beliefs, both engage in a commercial endeavor. Why, then, should the baker be forced to participate but not the church? This is one argument that I foresee coming to the forefront of the next part of the debate. More than likely, people will idiotically attempt to remove the tax-exempt status from churches, forgetting that they exist based on donations anyway and would qualify as tax-exempt regardless of their religious nature (and to ban their tax-exempt status simply because they have a religious affiliation would be a gross violation of the First Amendment).
Yet, even if such a world came to be – and such a world will probably come to be within a few decades to a few centuries – Christians have only themselves to blame. Unlike persecution in the Middle East, where Christians suffer merely for existing, anything that would bear the semblance of persecution within the US was brought about by the hands of Christians. Rather than through prayer, love, and spreading the Gospel, we attempted to ban homosexual unions using the tools of the State. We tried to protect that which is sacred by utilizing that which is secular, which isn’t necessarily wrong (such as using the State to protect the sacred nature of life), but when it becomes the primary tool it becomes wrong. After all, “We war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.” But for the past three decades the Religious Right has warred against everything, declaring war on people, using the government as a weapon, and such a tactic has consistently backfired.
Had Christians, early on in this debate, recognized that marriage doesn’t belong to the State to begin with and rather utilized civil unions, one must ask if today would have ever occurred. If the State dealt exclusively with civil unions and removed itself from the marriage game, then what would have changed? Rather, Christians attempted to enforce their view of marriage – a view that isn’t even solidified within the Christian community (as Orthodox, Catholics, and other sacramental elements differ on the nature of marriage than say, Baptists, Pentecostals, and so on) – upon a secular institution. They then used the natural to defend the supernatural. But as is the case, always, the natural ate up the sacred.
The world did not end today, nor will it end because of homosexual marriages. Perhaps, and one can only hope, Christians will realize they have to begin acting like Christians. Rather than ostracizing and creating political outcasts, or attempting to legislate the Gospel into existence, they will see the importance of living it. Maybe they’ll finally abandon the Religious Right, dying an undignified and very deserving death in the Republican primary (where all typical Religious Right candidates trail behind Jeb Bush and Donald Trump…welcome to America!). Then again, they probably won’t, but hey, I can dream, right?